A European Army

I think we all understand the desire of those in mainland Europe to move ever closer to a single entity in all matters, many have foreseen this and despite the so called Euro scepticism in the some of the mainstream political parties and general feeling of negativity amongst the public they all either seem unable to articulate a coherent alternative or simply want more Europe anyway.

For many, defence cooperation which inevitably leads to defence co-dependence and ultimately defence unification is a red line but by their deeds we should know them, not their cheap soundbites.

The issue of the possible merger of BAE and EADS and the current governments reaction to it will demonstrably show which flag their colours are nailed to and despite the reported ‘conditions’ David Cameron and Nick Clegg are thought to be in favour.

With EADS, which is largely owned by the French and German governments, set to have a majority stake in the new organisation we will have little  influence. One can’t blame BAE, despite their sometimes deserved reputation for milking the MoD’s teat, the simple fact is they have been arsed around by incompetent government defence industrial policy for a long time.

So with the nations apex defence contractor under effective foreign government control the rest will surely follow.

With good, or bad timing, depending on your perspective, the Final Report of the Future of Europe Group of the Foreign Ministers of Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Spain was published yesterday.

At this stage it is only a discussion document but tellingly, the UK was not part of the process and it calls for many things that will cause the British right wing to shit a sticklebrick!

Some highlights from a defence perspective;

There is a need to strengthen the Common Security and Defence Policy. Our defence policy  should have more ambitious goals which go beyond “pooling and sharing”. The possibilities of the Lisbon Treaty, in particular the establishment of Permanent Structured Cooperation should be implemented

Pooling and sharing was also one of this big red lines beyond which we would not cross.

introduce more majority decisions in the CFSP sphere or at least prevent one single member state from being able to obstruct initiatives

That would be the end of a national veto on matters security and defence related

aim for a European Defence Policy with joint efforts regarding the defence industry (e.g. the creation of a single market for armament projects); for some members of the Group this could eventually involve a European army.

And there you have it.

What the current government does with BAE, our various collaborative programmes like UAV’s and MCM and how we react to these ‘proposals’ will  be a turning point.

Interesting times ahead.

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September 18, 2012 9:44 pm

I vote for the uk to have a similar position to Europe that Norway does.

Don’t mind operating the same equipment as European partners don’t mind joint traing( we did have the tri national tornado traing Sqn) or even joint maintenance overhaul agreements provided there flexible enough..

But we must first off retain independent national capabilities for uk national only operations.

September 18, 2012 10:10 pm

It won’t work.

September 18, 2012 10:25 pm

The basic security challenge for the unified Europe is to communicate to its population that the EU is now about collective defence, i.e. an alliance, too.
That’s probably known to less than 1% of the population.

The wording of the Lisbon treaty is actually a much more specific and binding one than in the North Atlantic Treaty, but NATO is perceived as an alliance while the EU is supposedly only about agriculture, regulations and much talk.

To go forward without taking the population with you on the travel forward will only deepen the disconnect and will lead to an even more brittle foundation of unification.

September 18, 2012 10:39 pm

@ S O

Good one. TD can write his own material he doesn’t need help. Look in the archives for thread about the RN co-operating with the Swiss Navy on hydrography; it is a classic. :)

September 19, 2012 2:33 am

I have to agree that while these 11 nations politico’s can dream and scheme of a US of E with its own armed forces they are increasingly loosing what little democratic mandate they ever had for such a project. Most of the Eurozone nations sleep walked into the Eurozone and now regret it and more Eurupoe will be a hard sell. That being said the vast majority of the great unwashed to give a f**k about defence in so integration of Armies may not be such a large issue.

If Europe wants to build an common army I think we should participate. However I would participate by building a larger Navy and converting the British Army across to a force more like the US Marines that could operate independently or in support of a joint EU action.

I would certainly support common equipment purchases in land systems choosing a single contractor to build and out source to others but only if this was done fairly with no political bias (dream on)

September 19, 2012 8:13 am

Good point Martin. A lot of political capital was spent to sell the Eurozone, but with the current economic black eye that caused, the last thing anyone wants is the possibility that mismanagement is going to go over into the military side too. Not to mention the problems of enforcement if Country A falls short of it’s quota of military spending, or of the inability to measure “combat performance” other than by cost, which is not really an exact measure (e.g Country A has heaps of corruption so while loads is spent on the military, effectiveness is crap as opposed to Country B who due to heavy industrialization *cough and slave labour cough*, spends much less for more bang).

So in short, nice idea, hell to implement. Not going to happen.

Peter Elliott
September 19, 2012 9:02 am

Happy to let them get on with it so long as we remain outside. Agree that the the proposed BEADS sounds like a bad plan.

Not actually sure where Cameron sits on this – which is exactly how he would want it. His backbenchers however will be dead against. As such the question will turn more on how Eurosceptic/Opportunistic the Labour benches are feeling.

There actually isn’t a need to rengotiate or withdraw from the EU. It is the EUZ 17 who are effectively withdrawing by setting up their own inner club. If we avoid being sucked into this ‘Eurozone government’ then the ‘rump EU’ will come to resemble the sort of free trade area we want anyway.

Also don’t forget the French. Their public opinion is rather more rabid than ours. Expect them to chuck plenty of spanners in the works as the credit crunch continues to bite them.

September 19, 2012 9:15 am

I think Europe is as necessary to our security as ever. However a federal Europe is doomed to failure because the continent is simply too diverse. I could see the core nations of Germany, Ne, Be, Da and Austria bring able to establish a solid bloc but geography and the resulting different attitudes would really challenge the idea. Of course what we don’t want either is this solid bloc. But we cannot afford to be outside Europe. The whole thing is a very necessary but very tricky tightrope. But really fundamentally no different from the diplomatic problems of ages passed.

Federal, absolutely not because it cannot work. Tighter integration, yes but done carefully and bounded by the realities and not the idealisms.

September 19, 2012 9:53 am

I’m not really one for total integration with Europe, but I must say that I think defence is probably the only easy area to integrate. My rationale is based on many reasons, least of all that the majority of Europe spend around the 2% GDP mark and integration could lower this to probably about the 1% mark this suiting all involved.

Someone mentioned about the current UK services morphing into a USMC equivalent and sitting outside of the main European Defence Force. I agree with this – it allows us to defend our overseas territories without being affected by the “one military strategy fits all” problem.

My stance is if we can’t integrate defence (which sits outside of nearly every civilian’s area of direct involvement – totally different to health and education for example) we can’t integrate anything.

The only other area that is on my short list to integrate is state pensions – however, this is not the site for that discussion.

September 19, 2012 10:28 am

NATO works. Consequently it is easy to give concrete examples to the people of it working. And because of that it is seen as legitimate and worthy of expenditure to the people

The EU doesn’t work. Consequently it isn’t easy to give concrete examples to the people of it working. And because of that it is seen as illegitimate and not worthy of expenditure to the people.

Look at the operations in Libya. The two closet European states to Libya were reluctant to be involved. Europe’s biggest economic power sat out. And without material support of the US the venture couldn’t have happened.

Europe is key to our security in that the land mass sits between us and Africa and Eurasia. It provides I think the term is strategic depth. But as the flood of economic migrants has shown it provides with little real security in peace time. Illegal immigrant one day, squad of suicide bombers the next day?

Perhaps it is the lack of a tangible threat to Europe that pushes defence down the agenda?

Perhaps the best thing the UK can do for European defence is stop contributing to the EU and spend the money on our armed forces, so at least one nation has the wherewithal to field a credible force?

(x exists stage left to look fondly at pictures of the Mediterranean Fleet in the Grand Harbour, Malta.)

September 19, 2012 12:12 pm

I think they’ve “eventually” wanted this since 1954. (Also, the problem with the whole idea is that the countries who are keenest are also completely unkeen on contributing anything to it.)

September 19, 2012 1:47 pm

Once again it seems that “cooperation and integration” will be used an excuse for collective weakness and inaction. The NATO umbrella has allowed European nations to live under a US shield, scrimping and cutting defence. All a European Defence Force would do is allow a further reduction in the contribution from nations which are already beholden to others.

Furthermore, that plans like this are still being made when one of fundamental foundations of the EU is teetering on the abyss indicates only mass delusion.

Cooperate by all means, but if European nations continue with the insular and inward-looking policies of the last twenty years, then they can only ensure further descent into geo-political irrelevance. Realism has to finally take the reins in Brussels; let the idealists take a back seat for the next twenty years.

September 19, 2012 2:11 pm

@Bertram: Correct. Completely correct. The EU is designed to allow Europeans to hide from reality for just a little bit longer. Sadly the reckoning will be far more savage the longer it is delayed. We can already see the results of Europeans banding together to hide from demographic and economic reality. The economic stagnation and welfarism of the ‘European Social Model’ have been combined with brutally destructive debt dynamics driven by the Single Currency. Democracy has ceased to be a meaningful reality. The solution? More Europe of course, never less. The Eurogroup wants to spend even less on defence, the European Commission prefers that no nation state is able to act unilaterally, even in extremis. There is nothing beneficial in the EU for anyone who wishes to see the rule of law, liberty and democracy defended in Europe, let alone *by* Europe. We are too weak to preserve it in our own societies, let alone to help create the conditions for it abroad. If we do not leave we will be dragged down like the rest.

September 19, 2012 2:59 pm

Hide from what reality?
That two European nuclear powers and a sizeable chunk of world-wide military spending is enough in face of marginal capability Arab forces, allied Turkish forces, small corrupted Belarus’ forces and the Russian forces which are in dire need of a total makeover?

I think we hid from this fact, but if we didn’t we would understand that the combined military power of EU countries is so large that the U.S. is utterly unnecessary for European defence.

The blather about a “European Social Model” is off the mark as well.
Germany is fine with more of a social net than the UK has (which is not fine). Sweden is also quite fine. The U.S. is not fine (minimal social net). Compare the groups of countries in trouble with the groups of countries having much of a social net and the intersection allows for no statistical correlation conclusion.
I understand there are plenty of well-paid propagandists out there feeding these ridiculous pseudo-causalities tot he masses, but that doesn’t change that the real problems are different ones.

September 19, 2012 3:48 pm

@ SO Differences do exist between welfare structures in individual countries within the EU, no question. However, many nations have birthrates that are at, near or below the replacement rate. This means their populations as a whole are gradually getting older. Older and more long lived people are more expensive to treat medically and provide pensions for. As the proportion of older, retired, sicker citizens increases relative to the proportion of younger, working, healthier citizens the implications for taxpayer funded services become clear. More cost, less money. Demography is destiny.

Furthermore, it is fairly clear that in order to keep heavily indebted and/or highly uncompetitive countries within the euro, others, like Germany, that have low debt and have retained and enhanced their competitiveness must also be ruined. Overspending European government lies at the root of our inability to deal with the various financial crises that we have seen over the past five years or so. The fact that we have a sovereign debt crisis in the eurozone is not because eurozone countries overspend on defence (possible exception of Greece), it is because they (and we here in the UK) overspend on welfare entitlements of one form or another. Membership of the EU adds yet another layer of regulation and cost from which there is no respite. This makes our problems worse not better. If we did not have implosion within the eurozone then our gilt rates here in the UK would bankrupt the state. We are hugely in debt and stuck in low or no growth mode. This is because the state is taking and spending far, far too much. ON a day when we have a Chinese official discussing using balance of trade and debt as a weapon of war against Japan in a dispute over island sovereigty clearly these are real issues and real problems. Wishing they weren’t is futile.

September 19, 2012 6:15 pm

@ Simon – “I’m not really one for total integration with Europe, but I must say that I think defence is probably the only easy area to integrate.”

No, it is the very most difficult.

Defence can be integrated into a shiny euro-army bu i is no good for anything more than a diversity parade if there is not a common will to employ it.

Pooling sovereignty is a great idea as long as the parties involved are working in a broadly convergent policy direction, if they are not then all that is being achieved is a lowest common denominator fudge.

Active FP of the type desired by the UK and France is highly contentious and therefore the most likely to sink under the weight of consensus.

A euro-army might well work for several of the central and eastern european states, bu the likes of Britain will do better to have bilateral arrangements with like minded countries on a case by case basis.

September 19, 2012 6:34 pm

“Overspending European government lies at the root of our inability to deal with the various financial crises that we have seen over the past five years or so. The fact that we have a sovereign debt crisis in the eurozone is not because eurozone countries overspend on defence (possible exception of Greece), it is because they (and we here in the UK) overspend on welfare entitlements of one form or another.”

Both is nonsense.

(1) The roots of the crisis vary from county to country. Spain has a crisis due to its burst bubble, but was fiscally disciplined before the crisis. Greece was and is an all-out snowball system. Portugal was never close enough to most of the Euro zone and should never have joined. Italy’s government has been neutralised by a horny and totally ineffective head for many years.
(2) the sovereign debt crisis now exists because the countries were so poorly run that the didn’t have the margin of health needed to refinance in the midst of a deleveraging whirlwind. On top of that there’s no lender of last resort in the Eurozone, for the ECB is supposed to not play this role. This means bankruptcies or debt cuts are technically possible and the finally awake markets finally add some risk premium to their lending to governments.

The welfare-bashing is merely right wing propaganda.
Actually, Germany handled the crisis so surprisingly well BECAUSE it has made use of its social spending to finance part-time work (half hours/week, half pay from employer, some additional benefits from government to make this acceptable to the employee – better than to pay full unemployment benefits).

Besides, a certain large country with little social transfers is no better at all if you take into account the then-necessary transfers in the healthcare system and the costs incurred by higher crime rates and incarceration rates.

September 19, 2012 7:35 pm


I did try and distinguise between “defence” and foreign policy. Defence (e.g. troops, tanks, interceptors, etc) – really can’t see the problem. Offense, yes, problem due to differences of opinion.

I think if you read between the lines, it is happening anyway, and is being planned to happen regardless of what you or I want or think will work.

The Other Chris
The Other Chris
September 19, 2012 7:48 pm

Looking for sources on France’s global logistic capacity: I’m under the impression it’s supposed to be quite good. Anyone have any links or reading references on the topic?

September 19, 2012 8:40 pm

@ Simon – “Offense, yes, problem due to differences of opinion.”

Well quite – will european army assets be available to the host nation that wants to get involved in a little ‘active’ FP?

Surely that would be a decision derogated to the common FP……………

September 19, 2012 9:07 pm


I thought European forces were already available to a nation through NATO for a little active FP?

I suppose, more specifically, European forces (especially ours) have been available to the USA for their FP through NATO ;-)

Brian Black
Brian Black
September 19, 2012 10:00 pm

There’s been a European army for years, if you want to call it that.
We don’t and won’t contribute to any euro force or force HQ because it would duplicate NATO structures for no clear benefit.
Structures like Euro Corps and the Franco-German brigade are largely political symbols rather than effective military organs. For a true European army, you need a single European defence policy/minister/ministry; and that’s not happening any time soon. Some have dreamed of this for decades, but not a single pair of nations has combined their defence ministries. They’re all talk. When it comes to balls-deep integration, someone gets cold feet.

September 19, 2012 10:27 pm

“I thought European forces were already available to a nation through NATO for a little active FP?”

Because sovereign nation-states have acceded to the request, the point being is that in future it would be european FP directing the disposition of european forces.

If we want to create a make believe european force then be my guest, christen the 7th armoured as the 1st eurokorps from which new beginning it make some lovely parades. But that is not what is being suggested here.

September 19, 2012 10:38 pm

Don’t have much time for nile gardener most of the time, but he puts the case rather well here:

September 20, 2012 4:00 am

@ SO – I think you are correct about the US system with a lack of transfer mechanism being a big problem. As in China in a high growth environment you can get away with this but in a lower growth environment it tends to create social problem’s. However the EU style system of massive welfare state and inter generational poverty through welfare dependency is just as big a problem.

There is no easy solution to this problem as its too big to effeictivley solve. The fact that most G7 Nations of Similar Size i.e. France, UK, Japan, Germany have very similar per capita GDP while operating very different social models suggests that it does nto really matter one way or another.

In my estimation universal health is worth keeping as its a cheaper and more efficient system that the US style insurance based system. Universal education should be the major priority and used to transfer wealth. Benefits should be more about a safety net than transfer of wealth amongst classes and the state should not provide for the retirement of its people.

State pensions are the real big threat to Europe. To political to cut too expensive to keep. A system like this will see the young increasingly disadvantaged in favour of the elderly.

If Thatcher did anything right it was putting the UK pensions on a sustainable path. Unfortunately subsequent labour and Conservative governments seem hell bent on f**king it up.

September 20, 2012 9:18 am

@ SO You agree then that the euro project has helped lock in the different economic weaknesses of various eurozone countries (and the strengths of others, like Germany). Germany has done its own heavy lifting on competitiveness and did it in a remarkably consensual way. That is to be admired and envied. However what will happen when she has to stand behind the debts of other eurozone countries to preserve the euro project remains to be seen. As you point out, the ECB is not supposed to do it, nor can it without an exchequer. Must we therefore have more of this failed integration, not less? Having buggered up the economies of the eurozone, rendered representative democracy moot across the EU and removed the consent on which the rule of law relies here in the UK we must hand these Charlies the keys to our militaries as well?

I am not welfare-bashing by the way. I have no desire to write a cheque every time I go to the doctor or take my kids to school. (That doesn’t mean I believe our education and health systems are unimprovable either). That said, too-early retirement ages, universal benefits like child benefit, tax credits paid regardless of employment status and able-bodied benefit claimants who are better off than minimum wagers are not the right way to a) get people out of worklessness and b) fashion an economy that is dynamic enough to compete in the new global economy that is emerging.

We have increased spending since 2010 and our economy flatlines. We have been very busy transferring money from the productive to the unproductive or less productive trying to buy the votes of various client groups. Unsurprisingly, we are still failing to grow. This is not right-wing propaganda.

We have a very small window of opportunity to mend our ways, get stronger more broad-based growth in the real economy by restraining government spending and cutting taxes. There is no other path to paying off our debts. This is the No. 1 issue of national security facing us today. The EU was created to mitigate the strength of the nation state, it has been a complete success. Right now our nations are very, very weak and new powers are rising. We do not have time anymore to waste solving the problems of WW1, we have new challenges that must be faced. Time to crack on.

September 22, 2012 10:08 pm

An EU army simply isnt going to happen is it?
The French wont want it unless they can command it, buy their own industry’s weapons for it, and still use it for their own extremely cynical interventions around the world. The Germans wont want it unless they can make sure it isnt actually allowed to fight anywhere. And none of them will actually pay enough to make sure it isnt a laughing stock.

It is also utterly pointless. It could work as a defensive force, but then it is just NATO redux. The clear intention is that it would be the stick to back up a common european diplomacy, but it would get laughed as the whole world knows that most of the members dont have the will or guts to get stuck in. It would actually reduce the influence of Europe as it would reduce the chance of France and Britain wading in with notional EU backing.

Swimming Trunks
Swimming Trunks
September 23, 2012 9:35 am

I vaguely recall such a position being mentioned in the writings of Proudhon about Federalism – that getting states in a (con)federation to work together in self defence was easy but the cost and effort of attacking others would cause too much difficulty and if not impossible would limit the duration of the war. He considered this good thing (had a soft spot for Switzerland).

Swimming Trunks
Swimming Trunks
September 23, 2012 9:35 am

I vaguely recall such a position being mentioned in the writings of Proudhon about Federalism – that getting states in a (con)federation to work together in self defence was easy but the cost and effort of attacking others would cause too much difficulty and if not impossible would limit the duration of the war. He considered this good thing (had a soft spot for Switzerland).

September 24, 2012 11:04 am

A symptom of the european question:


Great. I trust a Canadian ambassador to argue for a position convergent with British interests.

Could I say the same for an EU ambassador from France or Germany………………